Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Health coordinators address challenges in Sierra Leone

By Ivy Couch*

“For a child to be able to go to school in the morning, for the teacher to be able to go to school, they need to be healthy,” Bishop John K. Yambasu remarked at the opening of a new United Methodist health center in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

The Sierra Leone Episcopal Area bishop added, “If you went to church and preached very well to a sick congregation like we had during Ebola, it would mean nothing. That is why we value the three-pronged approach: education, health and community development.”

To help achieve this vision, Global Ministries helps to train and provide grants to United Methodist health departments. The Health System Strengthening program supports 12 seasoned health coordinators across Africa who oversee United Methodist health offices. Global Ministries plays a vital role in developing health coordinators to implement sustainable programs.

The Sierra Leone Annual Conference has received more than $1 million dollars in grants over the last two years to support various health programs including Health Systems Strengthening, HIV/AIDS, Maternal Newborn and Child Health, Imagine No Malaria, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and more. The conference operates 10 health facilities and one newly renovated facility. These facilities have provided services to nearly 140,000 patients over the last two years.

Over the last few years, the conference lost eight health coordinators, seven to retirement and one to death. Through Global Ministries funding, the conference hired 25 additional staff to accommodate the growing number of patients. Two new ventures between the conference health board and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation include an HIV program and a new health facility in southern Sierra Leone.

Global Ministries continues to support underserved communities and empower partners, through the Health Systems Strengthening program. These efforts enhance the standard of care and equip the health coordinator with vital building blocks needed for sustainability.

“We have seen a remarkable growth in governance, supervision, and quality of reporting from the health coordinators over the last few years as a result of capacity-building efforts,” said Dr. Olusimbo Ige, executive director of the Global Health Unit of Global Ministries. “We are also glad to see improvement in the quality of services provided at United Methodist hospitals as the health coordinators take over the responsibility of implementing sustainable programs."

Sustainable changes essential

At the helm of this progress is Catherine Norman, conference health coordinator. “The goal has been to provide sustainable changes,” Norman said. “This involves facilitating amendments to policy and regulations, organizational structures, and program development.”

Mobility for outreach programs has been a major problem. Through grant support, Global Ministries helped to purchase a Toyota Land Cruiser. The vehicle provides an efficient way to monitor sites and drastically improves service delivery.

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Despite progress, a shortage of skilled health-care professionals remains, and recruitment continues to be a priority. Global Ministries is working alongside the conference to construct a surgical department at Kissy Hospital. It will include two operating rooms, an intensive-care unit, several X-ray units and patient wards. Efforts are also underway to provide inpatient services at the Lowell and Ruth Gess UMC Eye Hospital in Kissy, the town located on the eastern end of the Sierra Leonean capital of Freetown.

Health coordinators continue to forge ahead in this vital work throughout Sierra Leone and other episcopal areas in Africa. It is the continued goal of Global Ministries to help these health coordinators and the programs they work tirelessly to maintain.

“We have a connectional church,” said Yambasu. “No one person is ever sick; the entire church shares her pain.”

To give to the work of Abundant Health, please give to Advance #3021770.

*Ivy Couch is a communications specialist for the General Board of Global Ministries.